A handshake for history, a parade together and two hockey players, one from the North, the other from the South, united to the Olympic basin: the 2018 Olympic Winter Games officially began Friday in Pyeongchang by multiplying symbols of peace still unthinkable a few weeks ago.
And if these Olympic Winter Games finally announced well as those of peace, as hoped by South Korea, the organizing country?
It all started with a fleeting image, but a shared smile. It was at the start of the opening ceremony, shortly after 8 pm local time, that Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the reigning North Korean dynasty to walk on the soil of the great rival since the end of the Second World War. Korea in 1953, and Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea, shook hands.
A gesture of absolute banality that is nevertheless extraordinary in terms of the geopolitical situation.
Another strong symbol came one hour later during the parade of athletes: the passage in common athletes of the two countries, dressed in white and whose outfits indicated only the word “Korea” in the back.
Grouped behind the flag of Korean unification – the pale blue silhouette of the peninsula on a white background – Koreans received a big ovation from the 35,000 spectators gathered in the Olympic Stadium, watched by leaders of both countries.
In these conditions, the official opening of these Games, announced as it should be by the host country’s President, South Korea, has obviously received a triumphal welcome.
“I declare the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang open,” said Moon Jae-in from the podium.
“You will all inspire us, to live in peace and harmony, despite our differences,” said Thomas Bach, chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“This is how you show the unique power of sport to unite people. A great example of this unifying power is the joint parade tonight between the two teams of the National Olympic Committees of South Korea and North Korea. We thank you, “he added, amid the exclamations of the crowd.
Only two hockey players left – Jong Su Hyon for the North and Park Jong-ah for the South – to climb the luminous staircase leading up to the bowl, to allow the 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu -Na to drop the Olympic flame.
The Olympics-2018, which will extend until February 25, are already witnessing a spectacular rapprochement between the two Koreas, historical enemies officially still at war since 1953.
While the last few months had been marked by strong tensions linked to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic ambitions, recent weeks have turned the tide and resulted in the participation of 22 North Korean athletes in the Olympics, in addition to sending a high-level diplomatic delegation.
On Friday, before the opening ceremony, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s head of state Kim Yong Nam also met, exchanging an already historic handshake.
And on Saturday, high-level talks must be held.
The balance, however, remains fragile. The hour before the ceremony was less friendly, US Vice President Mike Pence dodging the dinner organized upstream.
According to the plan, Mr. Pence should have shared the same table as the South Korean and North Korean Heads of State.
But a spokesman for the South Korean presidency said he arrived late, “greeted those who were sitting at the head table and walked away without sitting down”.
For the Olympic spirit, it will, therefore, be necessary to rely on athletes.
Olympic Winter Games officially began with more than 2900 athletes
More than 2900 athletes representing 92 states, nations or delegations will compete for the 102 titles awarded in seven sports and 15 disciplines during this fortnight, the first major sporting event of the year 2018 before the World Cup in Russia this year. summer.
The last few weeks before the Games were also polluted by the Russian file, a bit identical to what could have happened before the last Rio Summer Games.
Banned by these Games of winter for institutionalized doping, Russia will nevertheless be able to count on 168 of these representatives, invited by the IOC, because judged sufficiently “clean”.
The delegation of the Russian Olympic Athletes was able to parade also Friday night, behind the Olympic banner.
After filing a final appeal in the Swiss courts, 47 disheveled Russians finally gave up their Olympic dream by withdrawing their application, just as the opening ceremony began.
All the ingredients are now in place for the Games of Peace to showcase the sport.
Virtue and Moir lead Canadian delegation to opening ceremony
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were all smiles waving the Canadian flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.
The figure skaters, with their radiant face, led the Canadian delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on a windy night and a -8 o C temperature with the wind chill.
Virtue, of London, Ontario, began the march with the maple leaf before handing it to Moir, Ilderton, Ontario, midway through their stadium tour.
The duo won a gold medal in ice dancing at the Vancouver Games in 2010 and a silver medal at the Sochi Games in 2014. They are expected to climb the podium again in South Korea.
Canadian athletes greeted the crowd, took self-portraits and danced to the sound of music, but like the other nations participating in this parade, they walked faster than usual to their seats – no doubt because of the cold weather.
With 225 athletes, Canada is counting on its largest Olympic Winter Games delegation, but a few have preferred to miss out on the festivities, while others have previously indicated they will leave after the parade. since the competitions start on Saturday.
Canada is competing in 15 sports in South Korea, and according to a sports data analysis, it is predicting a record crop of 29 medals, three more than in Vancouver eight years ago.